He was also very personally involved in the design for Project Gemini, which certainly had its flaws but is underappreciated IMO. It ends up being seen as simply a stepping stone toward Apollo, but it had actually had a bunch of very interesting design goals of it's own: very precise and controllable landings (including, in earlier plans, a fold-out glider with the pilot's windows facing forward for landing), the beginnings of space stations, much faster turn-around time and more modular design than Mercury, etc.
--- Gus Grissom
I always find this quote relevant in any thread about Grissom's accomplishments because he was involved in this incident 6-7 years prior to saying it. He honestly believed that the risks were worthwhile, and he wasn't afraid to be the guinea pig to stand by that belief.
It was so exciting as a kid to watch these rocket launches, ocean recoveries, and television updates that used crude models of the activities to give viewers an idea of how things were supposed to be working.
I remember when Apollo 1 burned up and have never forgotten Grissom, Chaffee, and White. When Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon I was glued to the TV.
Space is hard though to a casual observer it may look easy. Success does that to your perception.
Thanks for this article as I didn't know some of the details behind Grissom's contributions to our efforts.
Its possible to build a land lander that would not survive an ocean landing. So if for safety reasons you have to modify the design for water landing, may as well just make a water lander.
(edited to add, speed at splashdown for Apollo capsules was about 15 MPH, so accidentally crashing an Apollo into a flat cornfield would feel about like falling off a bicycle... there would be some damage but its rather unlikely to kill the astronauts, so most water landers can safely-ish land on land with an extremely high odds of survival)
Also helps that with the implosion of the English Empire the USA ruled the seas. Yes we had/have air force bases everywhere also, but there's just more surface area controlled.
If the Soviets had tried ocean recovery it would have been extremely awkward. Very handwavy the Soviets had an enormous number of low quality attack subs and extremely limited surface ships, whereas the USA had/has a huge dominating surface fleet. For better or worse the USA has enormous experience fishing aerospace vehicles out of the water, the USSR simply could not do ocean recovery like we did.
* It's a big, flat surface (relative to uneven dry land)
* Safe to land a heavier craft with only parachutes (no retro-rockets required to soften landing)
* There's a lot of ocean all around the US, so lots of possible landing zones
* Large margin for error that still has a safe touchdown
The Soviet's launch locations weren't exactly surrounded by oceans. I'm sure landing in the Caspian Sea was undesirable to them for other reasons.
Apparently, they did, indeed, later learn that the bolts "just blew". And, at least in part, because of that, the door on Apollo 1 did NOT have explosive bolts. If the bolts had worked properly on Mercury, then the bolts may have been in place on Apollo 1, and the crew and Gus Grissom may well still be alive today because of them.
As the engineer said in "From the Earth to the Moon", where this was dramatized, "I've never been a fan of irony."
When the capsule was recovered in 1999, they found no burn marks on the remains of the bolts, suggesting, according to some, that "perhaps the explosive cord never detonated". I don't know, but it is interesting.
Poor guy could not catch a break from NASA.
(Also Fred Ward has not gotten anywhere near enough screen time)